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MC 742; T-438; Vt-225; CD-75

Chernin, Kim. Papers of Kim Chernin, 1935-2011 (inclusive), 1967-2003 (bulk): A Finding Aid

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

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Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College


Processing of this collection was made possible by the Mary Mitchell Wood Manuscript Processing Fund.

Descriptive Summary

Location: Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.
Call No.: MC 742; T-438; Vt-225; CD-75
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Kim Chernin
Title: Papers of Kim Chernin, 1935-2011 (inclusive), 1967-2003 (bulk)
Date(s): 1935-2011
Date(s): 1967-2003
Quantity: 12.93 linear feet (31 file boxes) plus 4 folio folders, 2 folio+ folders, 11 photograph folders, 1 folio photograph folder, 1 folio+ photograph folder, 46 audiotapes, 13 videotapes, 2 CDs, electronic records)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: The papers of Kim Chernin, author, poet, psychological consultant, writing consultant, feminist, and lesbian, include correspondence, journals, draft manuscripts, and family papers.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession numbers: 2003-M62, 2004-M89, 2010-M24, 2010-M95, 2011-M28, 2011-M69, 2011-M237, 2012-M8, 2013-M10, 2013-M25, 2015-M49
The papers of Kim Chernin were given to the Schlesinger Library by Kim Chernin between 2003 and 2013. Material given in March 2015 (2015-M49) was added to the collection in April 2015 and is represented in #26.17.

Processing Information:

Processed: March 2013
By: Jessica Tanny, with assistance from Emily Underwood.
Updated: April 2015
By: Johanna Carll

Access Restrictions:

Access to the following series is restricted to researchers who receive written permission from Kim Chernin: Series II. Correspondence (#3.4-12.10); Series III. Writings, Subseries A, Notebooks (#12.11-21.2) and Series III. Writings, Subseries B, Unpublished writings (#21.3-26.11, 26.17). Upon the death of Kim Chernin, researchers must receive written permission from Renate Stendhal. Upon Stendhal's death, researchers must receive written permission from Deborah Kory until her death or 2040, whichever occurs first.
Researchers must sign a special form for access to #8.14-9.5 until January 1, 2072.
Audiotapes T-438.1 and T-438.19 are closed until January 1, 2040.
An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Kim Chernin is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.
Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.

Preferred Citation:

Kim Chernin Papers, 1935-2011; item description, dates. MC 742, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

SEPARATION RECORD

The following items were transferred to the Schlesinger Library Books and Printed Materials Division (pending review by curator):

BIOGRAPHY

Feminist, lesbian, writer, consultant, and psychotherapist, Kim Chernin was born Elaine Kusnitz on May 7, 1940, in the Bronx, New York, to Paul Kusnitz (1900-1967) and Rose Chernin Kusnitz (1901-1995). Her parents were Russian-born Jewish immigrants who were active members of the Communist Party of the United States. Rose Chernin met many challenges over her long career as a Communist Party organizer including making national headline news in 1951 when she was arrested for "advocating the overthrow of the government" and overcoming attempts by the U.S. government to denaturalize and deprive her of citizenship.
Kim Chernin's early childhood was drastically changed after her older sister, Nina (1928-1944) died from Hodgkin's lymphoma. Reeling from the tragedy, Rose Chernin relocated her family to Los Angeles, California, to be closer to her relatives. Growing up in South Central Los Angeles, Kim graduated from the Susan Miller Dorsey High School in 1957 at the age of 17. After graduation she joined 42 American delegates to attend the sixth World Festival of Youth and Students in Moscow. Despite warnings from the U.S. government, after the Festival, the delegates traveled on to the People's Republic of China. When she returned to the United States, Chernin started as a freshman at the University of California, Berkeley, where she met David Netboy during her first semester and married him eight months later on December 24, 1958. In 1961 the couple moved to Dublin, Ireland, and Chernin began taking courses in English, psychology, and medicine at the University of Dublin, Trinity College. When she became pregnant with her daughter, Larissa Nicole, she kept up with her studies from home and was still able to place at the top of her classes. When Larissa was one, the Netboys returned to California and Chernin reenrolled at UC Berkeley. In 1965 she graduated with an bachelor of arts in English literature and a year later separated from David Netboy.
After her separation and divorce, Chernin officially changed her name, started writing her first novel, and began to travel. In 1971 she spent eight months on the Adamit kibbutz in northern Israel. While there she had a brief affair with a married Israeli woman which she wrote about in her 1994 memoir, Crossing the Border: An Erotic Autobiography. The encounter greatly effected Chernin, who had been yearning for a way to find a greater connection with women beyond friendship. Earlier, in 1960 she had written her mother, "I have always wanted to have close relationships with other women—with men I have always had friendships and loves, but with women I have always wanted a deeper relationship than seems possible to have between two people of the same sex..." (#3.10).
In 1973 Chernin married her longtime boyfriend, Bob Cantor, whom she had been seeing off-and-on since 1967 and moved to 1003 Euclid Avenue in Berkeley, California. In the spring of 1978, she attended "The Great Goddess Re-emerging" conference at the University of Santa Cruz where she discovered similarities and connections with many of the women she met, and began her first open lesbian affair. Later that summer she officially separated from Cantor. Chernin wrote her therapist, Allen Wheelis, about her decision: "I think I must have told you that Bob and I had separated? It was my decision and seems, as the months pass, more and more correct. In part, I made it in order to enter more fully the Lesbian feminist community. In part, I wanted to live on my own and felt, perhaps for the first time in my life, able to do so without overwhelming anxiety or turbulence. Now I feel that my whole life has been leading towards just this decision, or rather, towards this ability to be independent and therefore to be capable of loving women. I think of myself as Lesbian—the word has, for me, a resonance, a certain pride to it, like the words mystic and poet—words to be earned, not taken lightly, words one uses with a catching of one's breath, uncertain always that they are deserved" (#12.10).
In 1980 Chernin began a serious relationship with feminist poet Susan Griffin. Although only together for a short time, Chernin related their split in 1983 to a divorce. In 1985 she reunited with Renate Stendhal whom she had met previously in Paris back in May 1982 while searching for a translator for her publication, In My Mother's House. Taken with each other from the very beginning of their relationship, Stendhal and Chernin have made a life-long commitment and continue to be partners in business, writing, love, and life.
For more information on Kim Chernin's background and writings see "More About Kim" by Jerilyn Fisher and "Kim Chernin" by Karen W. Waldron in the Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia.

ARRANGEMENT

The collection is arranged in four series:

SCOPE AND CONTENT

The papers of Kim Chernin include autobiographical writings, documents from the founding and first years of EdgeWork Books publishing; correspondence with friends, family, publishers, and fans; draft manuscripts for novels, poetry, and memoirs; journals; and materials relating to Chernin's published works. They document Chernin's early struggles with depression; her first marriage to David Netboy; the birth of her daughter, Larissa; her metamorphosis from heterosexual relationships to lesbian relationships; her psychoanalytic thoughts on sexual desires and female sexuality; her relationship to her mother, Rose Chernin; and her psychological distress over the death of her sister, Nina, in 1944.
Larissa Nicole Chernin is often referred to by her chosen nickname, Niki, but for the purposes of this finding aid, she is referred to as "Larissa."
Kim Chernin's website, http://kimchernin.com/, is being captured periodically as part of Harvard University Library's Web Archive Collection (WAX); searchable archived versions of the website will be available through this finding aid.
Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1935-2003 (#1.1-3.3, FD.1-FD.4, F+D.1-F+D.2, PD.1-PD.5, PD.12f+- PD.13f, CD-75.1, E.1-E.2), includes autobiographical and biographical writings; clippings, broadsides, and photographs from Rose Chernin's Communist Party of the United States of America activities; scrapbook of Kim Chernin's visit to China in 1957 kept by Rose Chernin; baby book and ovulation calendar from Larissa Chernin's birth; diploma from UC Berkeley; materials related to EdgeWork publishing company; Kim Chernin's official name change; and photographs of Kim Chernin.
EdgeWork publishing company, co-founded by Chernin, was established to support feminist writing. The company has its roots in an earlier iteration called "AroundWomen.com" which began in 2000. Later in 2001, the founders incorporated and changed the name to EdgeWork. Chernin's idea "was to provide an alternative venue for [a community of women] publishing quality literature that could be experimental and less commercial" (Publisher's Weekly, "EdgeWork: A New Publishing Formula," July 2, 2001). The materials in the collection include the original mission for AroundWomen.com, several early organizational charts for EdgeWork, and a detailed report of the company's structure and operation (#1.7-1.9).
For correspondence with family members, see Series II. Correspondence. Folders are arranged alphabetically.
Series II, CORRESPONDENCE, 1957-2010 (#3.4-12.10, PD.6-PD.8), includes letters and printed emails with friends, fans, and family members. Overall, Chernin is very open and honest in her letters about her life and her lovers. With colleagues and friends, she is generous with giving them honest opinion and her critical analysis. She writes frequently about romantic interests and her connections to women. However, this collection does not have a significant amount of correspondence with some important figures from Chernin's life including her second husband, Bob Cantor; her daughter, Larissa Chernin; her partner, Susan Griffin; and the later correspondence of her long-time partner, Renate Stendhal.
Chernin met Renate Stendhal in May 1982 while she and Susan Griffin were in Paris looking for a translator for In My Mother's House. Although Stendhal did not end up translating the publication, the two struck up a friendly correspondence. Three and a half years later, Chernin flew to Paris to reunite with Stendhal after separating from Angelyn Spignoti, a New England writer who also wrote about anorexia and bulimia. The correspondence in the collection between Chernin and Stendhal is mainly the letters they wrote between the time they met and when they started a romantic relationship. There is also a few later letters and emails (#12.4-12.7).
The almost daily correspondence between Chernin and Erica Crowell spans the majority of their intense, romantic relationship between 1997 and 1999 which resulted in a temporary separation between Chernin and Renate Stendhal. Consisting of mainly printed emails and instant messages, Chernin and Crowell (who often refers to herself as "Dumb Esther" and Chernin as "Fat Elke") discuss their relationship, love, dieting, depression, therapy, family and friends, and writing (often poetry). There are also emails from Chernin's close confidants, Michael Rogin and Michael Bader, with council on her relationship with Crowell (#4.4-8.11). See also correspondence with Michael Rogin for more emails about Chernin's relationship with Crowell (#11.12-11.15).
For correspondence with Chernin's publishers and literary agents, see Series III, Writings. Folders are arranged alphabetically. Written permission is required to use this series until January 1, 2040.
Series III, WRITINGS, 1957-2011 (#12.11-31.13, PD.9-PD.11), contains unpublished manuscripts; journal notebooks; dream journals; research and writing notebooks; and draft manuscripts, publishers' correspondence, and reviews relating to Chernin's published works. It is arranged in three subseries.
Subseries A, Notebooks, 1957-1999 (#12.11-21.2, PD.9-PD.10), contains journal notebooks, dream journals, research and writing notebooks. The journal notebooks document Chernin's relationships and love affairs, exploring her connections with the people in her life. The dream journals record Chernin's dreams with some analysis. The research and writing notebooks record Chernin's thoughts on psychoanalysis, characters in novels, and general writing ideas. Many notebooks overlap. For example some journal notebooks include entries about dreams and some research and writing notebooks include journal entries. Folders are separated by type of notebook (dream journal, journal, and writing and research notes) and arranged chronologically.
Written permission is required to use this subseries until January 1, 2040.
Subseries B, Unpublished manuscripts and papers, 1967-2011 (#21.3-26.11, 26.17), includes unpublished fiction, short stories, essays, critiques, memoirs, poetry, and plays. Additional material received as electronic files will be reformatted at some future date for inclusion in this series. Chernin's original titles appear in quotation marks. Folders are arranged alphabetically. Written permission is required to use this subseries until January 1, 2040.
In the late 1970s, Chernin wrote "Arise, Cry Out in the Night: A Tale of Inwardness," a work of poetry and poetic criticism written under an alter-ego she named Kiteran Hadas (and a critic alter-ego she named Lou Gabriel Aron). In her journal she explains: "If I were an artist only and not also a mystic, I could leave this vision of beauty in the world and seek the fulfillment of my longing in a woman's arms... Knowing this, I have created Kiteran, so as to be able to love the poet in myself, who causes me such difficult conflict and towards whom I have so many attitudes other than love. Lou Gabriel... is the critic in me, the analyst; a very intelligent woman, as I said, sincerely dedicated to life of Kiteran Hadas" (#15.1, Journal, December 1975-September 1977).
Subseries C, Published works, 1969-2003 (#26.12-26.16, 27.1-31.13, PD.11), includes articles, clippings, project proposals, reviews, and correspondence with publishers and literary agents regarding Chernin's published works. Drafts of Crossing the Border, A Different Kind of Listening, In My Mother's House, and The Hunger Song are included in this subseries. Folders are arranged alphabetically.
Series IV, AUDIO-VISUAL MATERIALS, 1979-2003 (#T-438.1-T-438.46, Vt-225.1-Vt-255.13, CD-75.2), includes audiocassette tapes, videotapes, and a compact disc with recordings of interviews with Kim Chernin during book tours; interviews with Rose Chernin and her sisters conducted as research for In My Mother's House; videotaped interviews with Kim and Rose Chernin conducted in preparation for Eric Strange's 1989 documentary, Children of the Left, about children whose parents who were members of the Communist Party of the United States of America in the 1950s (Please note: Rose and Kim Chernin are not in the final film). Titles are transcribed directly from the labels with more detailed descriptions in brackets. Formats are audiocassette tapes or videotapes unless otherwise noted. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.
Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be cataloged in VIA, Harvard University's Visual Information Access database. Others, referred to as "uncataloged" photographs, are not of sufficient research interest to warrant cataloging and are simply treated as part of the documents they accompany; they are marked on the back with an asterisk in square brackets [*].

Container List

Additional Index Terms

Audiotapes
Authors, American
Authors and publishers--United States
Baby books
Berkeley (Calif.)--Social life and customs--20th century
Books--Reviews
CD-ROMs
Courtship
Diaries
Eating disorders in women--United States
Electronic records
Feminist literature
Feminist literature--Book reviews
Jewish women--United States
Lesbians--United States
Love-letters
Memoirs
Mothers and daughters
Notebooks
Photographs
Poetry
Videotapes
Web sites
Women-owned business enterprises--United States
Women publishers--United States
Chernin, Rose
Communist Party of the United States of America
Crowell, Erica
McGowan, James A.
Rogin, Michael Paul
Rubin, Lillian B.
Stendhal, Renate
Walker, Alice, 1944-
Wheelis, Allen, 1915-2007

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